IT Exclusive: Tommy Nobis Interview, Part 3

Recently, Inside Texas interviewed Longhorn All-American Tommy Nobis as part of the preparation for our current magazine cover story on Darrell Royal. Excerpts of the conversation were included in the article. But Nobis had a lot more to say...

...about his experiences during a golden era of Longhorn football when the program came with a two-point conversion of consecutive national championships. He also spoke of the current state of Longhorn football, the seismic shifts in the game during the past three decades, and of controversial trainer Frank Medina.

Part 1 and Part 2

SOME COACHES EMPHASIZE THE SENSE OF 'FAMILY' AS PART OF THEIR PROGRAM'S APPEAL. WHAT TYPE OF PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP DID COACH ROYAL HAVE WITH HIS ATHLETES?

As a player, you never socialized with Coach Royal. There were some outings that we had, maybe as part of a bowl game, where it was social but even then there was still that distance between you and The Man. There's nothing wrong with that. You knew that he was serious about big-time college football. If you're not serious about it, you're not going to win more than you lose. I think that's what it really was all about.

When coach Royal walked into the room, you would almost stand at attention. He didn't ask for that, but you knew The Man was all-business. Coach Royal is certainly very special in my life in many ways but, when you played for him, it was more of a business relationship. Playing football for The University of Texas, or for any major institution that has a winning tradition, it's pretty serious, I can tell you that. There wasn't a whole lot of grab-assing, particularly between you and the head coach.

THE FIRST TIME YOU AND I TALKED, YOU MENTIONED FRANK MEDINA. I SUSPECT THE IMPRESSION THAT MOST FANS HAVE OF MEDINA IS WHAT THEY READ IN (GARY SHAW's 1972 BOOK) "MEAT ON THE HOOF"...

Right.

HOW ACCURATE OF A PORTRAYEL WAS THAT?

Next to Coach Royal, Frank Medina was the most important person in my whole career. His off-season was just a conditioning program to get ready for the spring, but if you made it through those Medina Sessions, spring practice from a physical perspective, was a piece of cake. We did feel that we were being pushed, but we were pushing ourselves that we would be better in the fourth quarter. That was something Coach Royal really brought home to all of us. The key, with all coaches in what they're trying to do, is stay in the game through the fourth quarter. If you're in that game in the fourth quarter, you have a chance to win it. What gives you the edge is your preparation for that time. You'd like to think that you worked harder than the Oklahoma Sooners did in the off-season, and that you're better prepared, that your game plan will work if we execute it.

Coach Royal would not interfere with the Medina Sessions because, from afar, Coach Royal liked it. He knew his teachings were being carried on by Medina.

When we put those pads on to go back out for the spring or the fall, we all had smiles on our face. We were just glad to get out of those Medina Sessions so we could play football.

He used to call me 'Redhawk.' I can hear him right now: 'Redhawk, we've got to get a better effort out of him.' He would just drive you and drive you and drive you. Of course, he would drive you to where some guys would quit. I had a tough high school coach at San Antonio Jefferson, and he drove a lot of guys away from football because of the way we practiced. We outworked most teams and we beat most teams. So I didn't have a whole lot of problems (with Medina) because, when I got into the program, I had already been there. I had already done the physical things. I had already pushed myself to where I'd almost fall out. That's when you know that you can take another step, or you could run another ten yards, when you didn't think you could.

He had a lot of conversations with me. I think he took a liking to me and I had a lot of respect for him. He'd tell me that I wanted to excel and be something special, then I had to do this, that and whatever. Most of it with Frank Medina was effort. You knew that you were going to have to give a better effort. He had insights, all the way down to 'You need to study your game plan more.' It wasn't all physical.

Anybody that skipped a class, you had to meet Frank Medina at the stadium at 5:30 in the morning. And you had to go get a pretty big blocking dummy, throw that thing on your back and run the stadium stands. Before all this renovation, the lower deck was 79 rows up. [Chuckling] I know that because I had to run the stadium steps several times. Really, I had reasons for missing class but they didn't care. There was no excuse for missing it; therefore, you had to run the stadium stairs. You had to do it 20 times, and you had to do it within a certain time frame. I mean, you'd see guys fall out, throw up or whatever. But that was the Royal-Medina discipline-push, character-building type thing.

We didn't have guys get seriously hurt and I think the reason was we were all in pretty durn good shape. But, with Frank, you learned to push it to the limit. You learned you could go a little bit more than you thought you could go.

Tommy Nobis (1963-65) set the standard for Longhorn defenses and established his jersey number (60) as one to be worn only by truly exceptional Texas players. During his senior campaign, Nobis won the Outland Trophy (outstanding interior lineman), the Maxwell Award (nation's outstanding college football player) and was the only defensive player listed among the Heisman Finalists in 1965.


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